America is no stranger to medical debt. It's a reality that the health-care system often results in people struggling with bills that total in the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When you receive a bill that is quite costly, it may seem like there is no way to pay it. Even if you pay all you can, it might be an amount you're never truly able to cover. What can you do?
Don't let medical debt ruin your life
Don't let medical debt get the best of you. Unpaid medical debt topped $127 billion in 2017, and around 30 percent of the debt belonging to insured Americans went to collections. Unpaid medical debts have been a leading cause of bankruptcy in America.
Are errors normal when dealing with medical bills?
Yes, and that's one of the problems. Medical billing is complicated, so errors and miscommunication about what is owed is very common. Many people don't know they owe money, and others say they never received a bill. In around 10 percent of cases, medical bills that were already paid ended up going to collections.
How does medical debt affect your credit score?
In the new versions of the VantageScore and FICO systems, medical debt does not weigh as heavily on your credit score. The trouble is that many creditors still use the old system. That means that you could see bigger drops in your credit based on one creditor's report while seeing smaller drops on another's.
Credit bureaus are required to wait 180 days before they can add medical bills to credit reports and mark them as unpaid. If nothing else, this gives you the chance to find a way to pay off the debt or have it forgiven before it hits your credit score.
No matter what happens with your medical bill, it is extremely wise to go over it with a fine-tooth comb. There are often errors, and they could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Follow up with your insurance agency if you're not sure about the bill you've received.
Stay alert when reading over the medical statements and make sure the medical office knows if you believe there is a discrepancy. Errors are more common than you may think, and it might be you who has to catch them before they can impact you or your credit score.